Monday, March 28, 2011

Chi-stipation

I knew I'd been gone a long time. I might even have admitted to six months, but it's been nearly a year since I've updated my blog. Now, one the one hand, I know that there were very few out there pining for my pearls of wisdom, but, on the other hand, I believe that when I was making (more) regular entries, I was getting down some things. So, my Spring resolution is...doesn't everyone make resolutions in the Spring, when the grass reappears and the world is fulfilling it's promise to let you out of the damn house again?...that I will go back to blogging and that I will update my work on my website.

There. I've said it. Work. Out there. For people to see. If my art career grew on mystery I'd be famous by now. I seem to have an even harder time showing people my art than I do sitting down to create it. But both of those areas have been better lately, and I think I know why.

One of my favorite guilty pleasure movies is "Big Trouble in Little China." Yes, it has Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall in it. Yes, it's horrifyingly full of demeaning cultural cliches. And yes, the production values make Conan movies look like art house cinema. But it also has a string of one liners, mostly delivered by Kurt, that just ache to be made into a self help manual for sound bite editors. And one of my favorites is when the shaman is explaining to Jack Burton about eastern religion, during the course of which he compares it to "your American salad bar." I first saw that movie thirty years ago (much as I hate to do that math!) and I still remember that line, complete with cheesy chopstick punctuation gesture.

So one of the things I've picked up from my trip to the world religion salad bar is the concept of "chi" or energy, more specifically (in my mind) energy flow. When the chi is flowing all is right with the world. You feel good. Things happen they way they should and you are movin' to the groove. When the chi is blocked, well...I have never read this specific analogy in any philosophical manual but it seems to be akin to a massive case of energy constipation and when it happens there is irritability, bloating and general peevishness for all. I'm sure I'm mangling this venerable and respected concept, but to me basically it means the more crap cluttering up your life, the harder it is for the chi to flow (and the chi is what gets things done baby!)

And I've had some chi issues. Perhaps it isn't unusual that I haven't posted in a year, and that my last post was about the death of my father-in-law. Dealing with death in the family, even when, superficially, it seems to be over and done with, takes more than you might think. More than I would have thought, even a year ago. It's not that we were so set adrift by grief that we were unable to function. There was functioning taking place, I'm pretty sure. It's more that we were set off course for a time. We had to readjust to the new state of the world, and it was harder to do that it seemed as though it would be. Time passed and the need to return to purpose was perceived but, at the same time, it was as though we couldn't quite find ourselves.

And, in the middle of all that, in my studio there was a large mosaic, a little less than half completed.

Understand that my studio (lovely grand word that) is a small, converted bedroom in a 100 and some year old farm house. It was converted to a kitchen for a miniscule upstairs flat probably around the time soldiers were returning from the war in 1945 and then converted to a studio when my husband and I moved here to get a little more elbow room. Unfortunately, we had both underestimated the size of our elbows and had limited funds for the massive warehouse that was what I apparently needed to corral all my crap (remember crap? The stuff that keeps the chi from flowing?) and so my studio began overstuffed and just progressed from there.

Place into the middle of that limited space a folding table with a mosaic that is roughly a yard wide and two feet tall, covered with enough broken glass to create some sort of torture chamber with the single misplaced bump of a generous hip, and you have the perfect recipe for chi-stipation. (My hips are so generous you could even call them philanthropic.)

Well, a few weeks ago I realized that I had to make a change, and part of the change was to get that mosaic done and out of there. I actually love making mosaics. There is something so fine and fiddly about finding just the right snippet of glass to express a curve of shadow or the glint of an eye. It is quite satisfying to labor in so close with pieces of glass the size of a baby aspirin or a grain of rice, and then step back and see what those tiny bits of color come together to create. But, for some reason, despite loving the process, I have a hard time with mosaic making. It taunts me. I become fearful at times. Most often when I am close to creating something that I really love, and I become more and more aware that with a single bad decision, in the too close moment of placing the small, I lose track of the larger picture and it all goes bad.

I freeze then, within that moment of fear, and have trouble moving forward. Pressing through to finish the work, where there is freedom of movement and the joy of creation. And the point at which I can get the damn thing out of the middle of my studio!

So maybe this is all part of the same thing. Maybe the fear of making mosaics is just the reflection of the larger fear that has been freezing me in place for the better part of a year. The placing of the small obscuring the larger picture. So I went back in there. Into the moldy chi corner of my life, and I started putting small pieces of glass onto the wood again. I made a few shelves and organized some more glass. I sorted and separated and broke glass into small pieces (a satisfying step all by itself) and, in essence, packed my mosaic making bags for the continuation of my journey down that path. And it worked.

I feel better. I feel positive about what I'm doing with my life again. I feel like the work I do is getting done and I'm back in the pattern. And I'm kick butt proud of my latest mosaic. So here's to Spring, and grass and longer days and more sunlight and an undeniable urge to move some more chi around.

1 comment:

cirklagirl said...

Weeellllll, welcome back! This was a wonderful treat to read, Jackie. I have TWO more days of work and then have seven days off to spend at home. Organization and getting rid of chi-stipation is top on my list because I know that it is part of my problem and I have not done anything with my personal space for a very long time (longer than your lapse of blog writing! lol...)

Anyways, I am amazed by this mosaic. If it weren't for the reflection of the little bits of glass in the upper right corner I might have thought it to be an oil painting or something. I don't know how you do it, but you most certainly are talented. So happy to have you as my sis. Keep it up!